The political landscape is littered with the remains of short-lived protest parties, from the “know-nothings” of the 19th century to the Dixiecrats or Perotistas of the 20th. Generally, these parties emerge due to populist anger with the dominant, out-of-touch mainstream parties of the day. They burn bright for a few years, garnering headlines and enthusiastic support, yet fail to make any significant changes and gradually fade away as the public’s attention moves on.This is the usual pattern, but with the nascent Pirate Party rising in the polls, Germany may be on the verge of glimpsing that rarity: a protest party that actually changes things. Writes the FT:
The Pirates sound like a gang formed on a school playground. But beneath the superficial nerdiness and naivety, Germany’s newest political party has shaken up the political establishment with an assorted left-right mix of demands: more transparent government, more civic freedom, including legalised web piracy, and a “basic income” for all. […]This proposition has proved particularly enticing for non-voters and supporters of left-leaning parties. The rise of the Pirates – now clocking 10 to 12 per cent in national polls – has gone in lockstep with a slump for the Greens. This has ended the poll lead the Greens and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) enjoyed for much of 2011 – one they hoped would sweep Ms Merkel from power in next year’s general election.
It would certainly be unusual for a six-year old political party to swing a national election in one of the world’s major countries. Yet despite its impact, one imagines that ensuring a third term for chancellor Angela Merkel and possibly creating another “grand coalition” between the country’s major center-left and center-right parties is not exactly the change the Pirates had in mind.Over time, the Pirates could become a serious player in German politics. Despite the quixotic nature of many of their proposals, some of their ideas are worth examining, and the German public seems to be intrigued. For now, however, it looks like their chief legacy may be four more years of Merkel and the CDU.